In 'Orchid And The Wasp,' An Unapologetic Heroine Who's No Gentle Flower Caoilinn Hughes's new novel introduces a young Irish woman named Gael Foess, who is both exploitative and highly effective. The author says her protagonist is unlikable on purpose.
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In 'Orchid And The Wasp,' An Unapologetic Heroine Who's No Gentle Flower

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In 'Orchid And The Wasp,' An Unapologetic Heroine Who's No Gentle Flower

In 'Orchid And The Wasp,' An Unapologetic Heroine Who's No Gentle Flower

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

There is a type of orchid that resembles a female wasp. And in rare occasions, this trick of nature will attract a male wasp to pollinate the flower. This is portrayed on the cover of Caoilinn Hughes' new book "Orchid And The Wasp," though the symbiotic relationship represents something else in Hughes' debut novel.

CAOILINN HUGHES: So I was using this as a way to explore the relationship between the exploited and the exploiter and ask the question, is it really exploitation if the loser isn't aware of what they're losing?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The exploiter in "Orchid And The Wasp" is the book's heroine, Gael Foess, a young Irish woman who will do anything to get what she wants. Reviewers have called Gael despicable, three times smarter than everyone around her and ruthless.

HUGHES: There are all these sorts of novels about men out in the world. And I wanted to write a novel about a woman out in the world. She's quite a macho character. I was really baffled and concerned by the fact that there don't seem to be many novels and even films or stories about women who aren't given kind of an element of trauma, who are unlikeable or ostensibly unlikable and who you see kind of succeed. Normally, if you have kind of unlikable female characters, they're given this measure of - this and this trauma is revealed in their past - and kind of apologizes for their unlikability or their bad behavior. So I really wanted to avoid going down that route.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Something that Gael doesn't apologize for? Her sexuality. The only person who pierces Gael's tough exterior is Harper, her college roommate. Gael falls in love with Harper, but Hughes doesn't label her or the relationship.

HUGHES: Gael's sexuality - I wanted to avoid having to address that directly in the sense that it's part of the privilege of straight people not to have to address their sexuality. On the other hand, it is also a little bit tragic that you get this feeling when you read the book that because Gael understands the world quite cynically, she's aware of the fact that being in a relationship with a woman will take away some of her clout.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Despite Gael's cynicism, Hughes says this complex heroine does have a conscience.

HUGHES: Her moral compass is kind of a plaything in her hand that, occasionally, she puts away and forgets where she left it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Caoilinn Hughes's new book is "Orchid And The Wasp."

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